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Tonight, on 16 July 2019, Earth will be passing between the Moon and the Sun. While your phone won’t be able to take a picture of the man (or woman) on the moon, you can still take some awesome pics of the night sky during tonight’s lunar eclipse.
1. Control your light
If you’ve tried to take pictures of the moon before, you might have been disappointed at the blurry blob of light surrounded by a sea of darkness. The first step to getting better pictures of the night sky is to control how much light goes into your shot.
There are a couple of things you can play around with to affect how light or dark your final image is. The moon is incredibly far away, but it’s still very bright because it reflects the sun’s light. Adjust the camera’s shutter speed, ISO (the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light), aperture (the size of the lens opening) and exposure compensation until you find a setting that’s just right for the shot you have in mind. Don’t worry if your first shots are just black, or if the object you’re photographing is completely washed out. Just tweak your settings and try again.
Some standard camera apps give you access to these pro-level features, but it’s worthwhile to buy a camera app that gives you more control over the camera. Some of the best ones are Manual (iOS only), Camera FV-5 (Android only) and ProShot (Android and iOS).
Don’t rely too much on what you see on screen before you take the shot. When you start adjusting these settings manually, the software tries to take a guess of the end result, but your final shot could look a lot different.
2. Capture some amazing shots
With a little bit of experimentation (and some clever tricks) you’ll be able to capture some amazing pics.
Create a star trail. This works best if you’re far away from the city lights. Use a phone tripod if you have one, or otherwise just put your phone down on a flat surface (place it on a washcloth so you don’t scratch the screen). Set the exposure to two or three hours. Then set the phone’s timer to 10 seconds to give you a chance to put it down and step away. Remember, the slightest movement of the phone while the shutter is open will ruin the shot.
Get a close-up of the moon. To pull off this shot you’ll need a pair of strong binoculars or a telescope. Use a phone mount (or any other method) to position the phone’s camera over the telescope’s eye piece. Take your time to frame the shot and set exposure. If you’re having trouble getting the moon in focus, switch to manual focus.
3. Follow the planets
Use an app like Sky Map (Android only), SkyView (iOS only), or The Night Sky (Android and iOS) to learn more about the night sky, spot constellations and follow the planets on their orbits around the sun.